Sleep/Wake Homeostasis and Circadian Rhythm

We go through life experiencing periods of wakefulness, tiredness and time-to-go-to-bed-ness. What causes these cycles in all us human beings?

Two natural forces are at work in controlling our sleep and being-tired patterns. as well as our wakefulness and sluggishness patterns.

Sleep/wake homeostasis regulates the overall sleep and wake phases of our bodies. generally speaking, this homeostasis (stasis is akin to static) by itself would mean that we go to bed at night when we get tired and then in the day we stay fully awake until night falls and our bodies tell us they need recharging.

Sleep/wake homeostasis, however, is just one of two sometimes-contradictory forces at work in us. We are also subject to what’s called the circadian rhythm.

If you’ve ever traveled overseas and back, you’ll know how the circadian rhythm plays havoc with you as you change time zones. When you arrive in Asia, for instance, depending on your starting point, your body might want to stay up all night and then want to sleep all day. Or vice versa if you travel in the other direction.

Overall, our circadian-rhythm “clock” regulates when we feel most awake and most tired throughout the 24-hour day. Generally, one’s circadian rhythm has two spikes in the sleep drive, periods when your body demands sleep the most — between 2 and 4 a.m. and again between 1 and 3 p.m., although this varies depending on whether you’re a “morning” or “evening” person. (Yes, these differentiations do exist.)

Teens are at particular mercy of their developing circadian rhythms, which keep them wide awake until 11 p.m. or midnight, making it tough the next morning to get up and function fully all day — until night arrives again and energy kicks in!

All kinds of sleep aids and circadian rhythm regulators (Melotonin, for instance) are prescribed to help control our dueling natures — the static and the circadian — with varying degrees of success and failure.

Now, the devil in the detail makes his presence known if you’re a chronic snorer, or if you suffer from sleep apnea. The two sleep-awake forces will still be at work, but without a good night’s sleep, your body’s lows will be lower and your highs not as high as they normally could be.

Don’t shortchange your body and go through life struggling to stay awake. If you’re a chronic snorer (one of whose symptoms is being overly fatigued in the daytime), you need to seek professional help and get your sleep under control and free of the effects of snoring and/or sleep apnea.

Nature provides its own highs and lows. You don’t need to make them worse by ignoring a problem that can be readily diagnosed, and generally treated simply and quickly.

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